Custom Garden Clothes: It’s About Bloomin’ Time!

Zephyr Summer Shirt

Zephyr Summer Shirt: Our new gardening clothing feels breezy and cool. Special fabric fends off the sun.

Buff Bandana

Buff Bandana: This versatile piece of garden wear is made of stretchy, stylish fabric that can be fashioned into a headband, bandana, scarf, cap or sweatband.

We’re proud to introduce our new line of hard-working, easy-wearing gardening clothes for women.

Finally, enjoy the freedom to do what you love in feel-good garden wear that moves with you. With plentiful pockets and clever coverage, they’ll prevent accidental “over-exposure” when you bend and reach. And, thanks to our flattering fit, you’ll look fabulous in the only clothing designed by Gardener’s for gardeners.

Be among the first to see the full lineup of garden clothing and garden gear in our Gardener’s Apparel department.

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5 Favorite Rhubarb Recipes

Jonathan Stevens, rhubarb lover and author of the blog Real Men Sow.

Want to grow your own? Read the article How to Grow Rhubarb. Want to buy some? We sell a variety called Chipman’s Canada Red, hardy in USDA zones 3-8.

Recently, we’ve seen a lot of interest in growing rhubarb. It has to be one of the easiest crops to grow. A happy plant will produce for decades. Grow rhubarb in full sun, in rich, lightly moist soil. In hot regions, plant rhubarb where it will get some protection from hot afternoon sun. Rhubarb will not thrive in soggy soil, where it will be susceptible to root rot, one of the few problems a rhubarb grower can encounter. If your soil is heavy and wet, raised beds are a good option.

For many, the hard part is not growing it, but what to do with the harvest. For ideas, we turned to a gardener from England, where rhubarb is revered. Jonathan Stevens, author of Real Men Sow, a Cheery Allotment Blog, shared this with us:

If I could only grow one fruit or veg, then rhubarb would be a contender. I adore the pinky green sticks. This might be thanks to my mum, who has been dividing and dividing her rhubarb plants for nearly 30 years. I quite literally grew up with her rhubarb patch.

I bounce off the walls for the first harvest, and not just because of the deliciously sweet taste. For me, rhubarb is symbolic of a new season, and really gets my juices going for the coming summer months.

I love snapping a stem in half and sucking up the syrupy scent almost as much as I do eating the ‘barb. But not quite.

Here are my favourite 5 things to make with rhubarb:

1. Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream: The crumble’s a time-honoured classic, and scrumptious in its own right. Mix it with ice cream, and something truly wonderful happens. I combine Delia’s cheaty recipe with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s proper ice cream (minus the vanilla). It is immense.

2. Carl Legge’s Rhubarb Cake: I made this after seeing it on Carl’s excellent blog, Llyn Lines. When he posted the recipe, someone commented that it looked so good, they wanted to lick the screen. The vanilla essence, crystallized ginger and rhubarb combine delightfully to produce a genuine indulgence. Particularly good with a large dollop of custard.

3. Stewed Rhubarb on Muesli: The healthy one! My mum was forever stewing rhubarb when I was little, for us to have as ‘afters’ with custard. In an attempt to set myself for the day, I’ve taken to having some stewed fruit and natural yoghurt with muesli for brekkie. Rhubarb is by far my favourite.

4. Rhubarb Jam: I often raid my mum’s prolific patch to knock up some jam. Traditionally, this jam is mixed with ginger, but I don’t like to distract from the distinct rhubarb flavour, so have been leaving the ginger out. Goes great with an Easter hot cross bun.

5. Rhubarb and Custard Trifle: Like crumble, rhubarb and custard is a staple – so much so, there’s even a cartoon named after it. And a boiled sweet. However, add sponge cake, as HFW recommends, and suddenly you’ve got a super simple but tremendously tasty trifle.

There are loads and loads of other great recipes for rhubarb, and year-by-year I’m getting round to trying as many as possible. Anyone got any combos they love? Apparently rhubarb wine packs a punch, and I’ve heard great things about a rhubarb and custard cake.

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Welcome Bluebirds Into Your Landscape

I know it sounds silly, but somehow I feel like I’m a better person for having bluebirds nesting in my yard. If these brilliant icons of spring opt to spend time in my landscape, then I must be doing something right. If you, too, want to enjoy their company (and benefit from the penchant for munching on garden insect pests) it’s time to set up some bluebird houses.

Here are a few key considerations to keep in mind when constructing or purchasing a bluebird house.

  • The hole should be 1-1/2 inches in diameter. (No, bluebirds can’t measure, but larger holes will invite bluebird competitors.)
  • The birdhouse — also known as a nesting box — should open easily for cleaning.
  • It should have a waterproof roof and small holes in the bottom for drainage and air circulation.
  • Boxes should not have perches. The bluebirds don’t need them, and perches invite predator birds that damage eggs and hatchlings.
  • Wooden nesting boxes may be left unfinished. You can paint the outside if you like, but leave the wood bare on the inside.

Install the box on a 4- to 5-foot-tall post in an area with low-growing ground cover or mown grass. Ideally, it should be near a tree, so newly fledged birds have a place to perch. Mount the box on a predator-resistant post if you live in areas with raccoons or cats.

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More Than a Garden Shed

Shed exterior

My place: I am going to add a front porch this summer.

Postcards

Found these old post cards online and glued them to the wall.

Chandelier

This light came from a kitchen remodel that my husband did.

Escape

My place to escape

In February, Deborah Norton of Acworth, GA, shared a photo of her shed, above, on our Facebook page. “Repainted my potting shed this past summer. I have an old chandelier inside that provides light; running water and shelves with light for starting seedlings. This month, I added my Bottle Tree! Absolutely tacky and absolutely lovin’ it!” We love it, too, and so did many of our Facebook fans. We asked her to tell us more:

I built the shed in 1999, with a little help from my husband. My husband and a friend built the base, the plywood floor, and framed walls. We purchased outdoor-grade plywood for the outside, as well as two storm windows, which are on each side. We got the door and the front window from someone who was remodeling. I put the siding up by myself and got my neighbor to help me hang the door and front window.

I have always been an avid gardener. I love to grow my own veggies, flowers, herbs, etc. In fact, everything in my yard — with the exception of a tulip poplar and some azaleas — were either started by me from seed or propagation.

The shed project was inspired by an outdoor potting table my husband built for me years ago. I placed it in my side yard, behind my veggie garden. I would hook a hose up to it and do most of my potting there. Today, that same table is inside the shed, minus the sink. In the meantime, I am looking for a used kitchen sink.

I used to start a lot of seeds in my basement. I rigged up a shelving unit and would start my seeds early each year. I had the lights on a timer and covered the whole thing in some heavy clear plastic in the colder months. I always started my seeds in January, which is a bit too early here — but I just couldn’t help myself. I always ended up with tomato plants already bearing fruit by the time I could get them into my garden. Then grandkids happened and my gardening took a back burner. I still start some seeds in my shed, but just for a very small 4×4 square foot garden. This year I am going to try corn, okra, green beans, squash, cucumbers and peppers.

I use my shed for storage in addition to seedstarting, repotting and overwintering. It is a quiet place to hang out in when I need to get away from the hubby and our two dogs, Mimzy and Jenny. A lot of my tools I inherited from my grandfather and found some at estate sales.

My garden is my whole yard; shrubs, perennials, annuals, herbs, succulents, etc. I have a dry stream bed with plantings along the side in my front yard and I built my own above-ground goldfish pond several years ago with a biological filter. I have 22 pet-shop gold fish that have grown into monster gold fish.

The view from the inside, at my potting table

Pond

My pond

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11 Other Ways to Use the Boot Tray

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When it comes to humble, hardworking products, our Boot Tray makes the top of the list. It’s simple, sturdy and contains the mess. Nothing fancy. In recent years, our customers have shown us that the Boot Tray is not just for boots. Here are some of our favorite uses, as described in customer reviews:

Shop for Boot Trays

However you decide to use our trays, they are available in three sizes:

1. This was the perfect solution to our cat dilemma. One of our cats loves to splash in the water dish and scrape his food out of the bowl to eat. We had tried multiple things with no luck. I ran across this Boot Tray in the catalog and the light bulb went off. This works like a charm! The food and water stays in the tray, not on my floor.

2. When I bring in my firewood I have a place to set it without making a mess on my floor. So thank you Gardener’s, for making the perfect place to put our firewood.

3. This is a great tray to protect your floor when setting up worm composting bins. I have two stacking worm bins and I set them both inside the tray.

Plants in Boot TrayPlants in Jumbo Boot Tray

4. I bought this Boot Tray to contain the plants and spilled water from my wife’s starter plants.

5. I actually bought this as a tray to place on the floor in my living room to hold two of the Terrazza Square Planters. We have a couple of tropical hibiscus that are beautiful but don’t hold up in the winter in our climate. After trying different methods for the last few winters, I finally opted for this tray and it is perfect for keeping the planters indoors. If the plants get overwatered and it runs out the bottom, it doesn’t damage my carpet.

6. I’ve used it in an old-school photo darkroom to contain spills when processing film on a table, where no large sink was available. It’s fine as a parking place for outdoor boots and shoes, but that’s the thing I use it least often for!

7. Great match with a pair of the small rubber grids to create a humidity tray for growing orchids. Just the right depth when using the grids (one set of 2) stacked on top of each other.

8. I had a rack-style clothes dryer in the laundry room, but I needed something under it to catch the water. This was just the right size and it works perfectly.

9. I purchased this tray to be a “collection” tray for my chickens, to sit under their roosting bar. I am very pleased with the quality and durability of this tray. I need something that is easy to clean, and this tray doesn’t have a pattern in the bottom of it that you have to clean around. LOVE IT!

10. Shortly after my daughter was born and I attempted to change her diaper on a traditional changing mat in the passenger seat of the car. While the the soiled diaper was off and I was fumbling for something in the diaper bag, she urinated again. That’s when I discovered that changing mats are merely cushions. Luckily we were about to sell that car anyway 😉 For the new car, I bought the Small Boot Tray.

11. The boot tray is just right size to put our humidifier on so we don’t need to worry about water spills — keeps our carpeting dry.

And, of course, it’s great for boots: “My husband’s size 13 boots didn’t fit on a regular boot tray, this Jumbo Boot Tray is perfect ….”

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Variegated Solomon’s Seal, 2013 Perennial of the Year

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Variegated Solomon's seal

Variegated Solomon’s seal, this year’s perennial of the year.

With gracefully arching stems and bright green leaves with white edges, variegated Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’) is a welcome addition to the woodland garden and an ideal companion for other shade-lovers, such as hosta, astilbe, hellebore, brunnera and ferns.

Although it doesn’t produce the riot of color of many previous Perennial Plants of the Year award winners, such as Magnus coneflower and Goldsturm rudbeckia, variegated Solomon’s seal is a dramatic plant nonetheless. The 18″ to 24″ tall stems add height and structure, and the white-margined leaves brighten shady spots. The species name, oderatum, refers to the sweet fragrance of the small, creamy-white flowers that dangle from the stems in late spring, attracting hummingbirds. With foliage that turns bright yellow in autumn, this plant offers three seasons of interest.

Like other Perennial Plants of the Year, variegated Solomon’s seal is adapted to a range of growing environments, is relatively low-maintenance and is generally free of pest and disease problems. It’s hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8 and prefers part shade to full shade and moist, humus-rich soil. In suitable locales it will spread by rhizomes, slowly forming colonies. Unlike the non-variegated Solomon’s seal, this variety is not aggressive.

Past Winners

  • 2012: Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’
  • 2011: Amsonia hubrichtii
  • 2010: Baptisia australis
  • 2009: Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’
  • 2008: Geranium ‘Rozanne’
  • 2007: Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’

See the complete list of winners.

Variegated Solomon’s seal is perfect for marking the transition between formal plantings and more natural woodland gardens. It will return faithfully each year to bring a touch of grace and radiance to shade gardens.

How Does a Plant Get Named “Perennial of the Year”?

Winners are designated each year by the Perennial Plant Association. This professional trade group includes growers, retailers, landscape designers and other horticultural professionals. The group chooses a plant using several criteria. For example, the plant must thrive in a wide range of climates and growing conditions, require relatively little maintenance and be attractive in multiple seasons. Each year, members of the association nominate hundreds of plants and winnow the list to a single winner.

For more on plant award programs, read the article Red Carpet Plants.

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What to Do With Horticultural Plastic

Recycling trailer at Missouri Botanical Garden

A recycling trailer at the Missouri Botanical Garden, part of a pot- recycling program that uses collection trailers that can be pulled behind a pickup truck. About a dozen garden shops in the St. Louis area participate in the program as satellite recycling centers, where customers can sort and drop off their plastic pots. “Each sites hosts a trailer, brings it in when it is full, and returns with an empty one,” Cline says. Photo: Steve Cline

Recycling plastic at the Missouri Botanical Garden

Steve Cline sorts plastic pots and cell packs at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s recycling program, where they collect 100,000 to 140,000 pounds of horticultural plastic every year. Cline, former director of the Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening, started the program in 1998.

Lumber made from plastic pots

The botanical garden’s Pots to Planks program sells 6″ x 6″ timbers made from ground-up pots (No. 2 and No. 5 plastics). The rigid, heavy timbers are great for raised beds and strong enough to use for retaining walls. “They are fantastic,” Cline says. “It’s a lot of plastic in one product, but we’re trying to get rid of it, and it’s useful to gardening.” Each 6 x 6 weighs 90 pounds.

One six-pack leads to another. In the course of a gardening season, a potting shed gets cluttered with stacks of the black plastic cell-packs that bedding plants are sold in — not to mention larger pots of every size and color.

Before You Toss …

Ways to reuse plastic pots, cell-packs, trays, and labels

  • Start your own seeds in cell-packs and small pots.
  • Use larger pots to pot up divisions and transplants for plant sales.
  • Larger plastic pots are also useful for propagating cuttings.
  • Cut the bottoms out of plastic pots and use them to create a barrier against voles and cutworms.
  • Big, bushel-sized plastic pots are great for tossing weeds into as you work in the garden.
  • Use plastic pots to scoop for potting soil; block the holes with a strip of duct tape.
  • Plastic plant labels make great bookmarks, especially in a garden journal. If they are blank on one side, use them to label new plants.
  • Store hand tools, garden gloves, twine, and other small supplies in plastic pots.
  • Large plastic pots can be used as a garden trug, to carry tools out to the garden or for harvesting (and rinsing) vegetables.
  • Crush empty six-packs and put them in the bottom of large flowerpots; you won’t need to put quite so much potting soil in the pot, and the cell-packs are lightweight.

“It’s just human behavior to save containers,” says Steve Cline, former director of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. “But the question is, ‘What am I going to do with it?'” In 1998, Cline launched a horticultural plastic recycling program, inviting members of the botanical garden, known locally as MoBot, to bring their plastic pots to the garden.

“It was two Saturdays in the springtime, and we collected 6,000 pounds of plastic,” he says. “It was pretty convincing.” Since then, the program has collected more than 500 tons of plastic cell-packs, pots, hanging baskets, and trays — black and colored horticultural plastics labeled with the triangular three-arrow symbol bearing the numbers 2 (high-density polyethylene), 5 (polypropylene), and 6 (polystyrene).

The Missouri Botanical Garden’s plastic pot recycling program is the largest and most successful program for recycling horticultural plastics in the country. No. 2 and No. 5 plastics are ground up and used to make plastic lumber suitable for raised beds and retaining walls. The timbers are sold back to gardeners. “It’s a closed loop,” Cline says. No. 6 plastics are baled and sent to East Jordan Plastics in Michigan. The company, one of the largest makers of plastic pots in the country, grinds up old pots, cell-packs, and trays and recycles them into new plastic pots.

In St. Louis and elsewhere in the country, not all garden plastics are allowed in curbside recycling. Where they are allowed, these they might simply be baled up and shipped overseas for processing, says Mary Patterson, waste division supervisor for St. Louis County. That’s better than the alternative. When they enter landfills in trash bags, they’re “almost like a mattress,” Cline says. “They don’t break down or compress.”

MoBot’s program has become a model for others: many botanical gardens, garden shops, and big-box stores are working on pot-recycling projects. “When we started, there was zero recycling” of horticultural plastics, Cline says. “Now we’re all thinking about it, and that’s the way it should be.”

Marty Ross is a garden journalist and gardener who lives in Kansas City, MO, and Virginia’s Tidewater region. She has a community garden plot and grows lettuce and herbs in pots on her front porch.
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